Happy Advent! and other Adventures

Well hello there and happy Advent!

I have been missing from this little space mainly due to Annabelle's arrival, but it has been nothing short of exciting having her along for the ride here in the Rodriguez household. She is proving to be a pretty easygoing baby so far and I'm hoping that doesn't suddenly change now that I have typed it out. All I have to say is that I am yet to feel sleep deprived and at six weeks in, that is pretty big deal! I think God felt bad for us from all of the sleep deprivation that we had with Kolbe so He cut us a little break this time around! I'll be sure to do an Annabelle update soon. 

Beware: This blog post is basically a huge photo dump =)

--FRIENDSGIVING 2014--

We've had some fun and exciting family adventures the past few weeks, starting with our annual Friendsgiving party. I love Friendsgiving mainly because most of my dear friends are gathered under one roof sharing a meal together and what could be better than that? Couple that with delicious homemade food brought by everyone in attendance and its pretty much the best thing ever. Its by far my favorite party that Matt and I host each year. 

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Typically everyone brings a traditional Thanksgiving dish, and its nothing short of a grand feast. This year,  we decided to have Friendsgiving a little earlier than usual on November 1st since Annabelle's due date was the 23rd. We thought we were playing it safe except she was born just two days later!

I feel so blessed to have such beautiful people in my life. 

--FALL LEAVES--

We have spent a lot of time outside in this wonderful weather that the South likes to call Autumn. Southern Falls and Winters are what make the ridiculous hot summers worth it am I right? Nearly every day I'm itching to get out even if its just for a little while for some fresh, crisp air. Kolbe has found a new love jumping and playing in huge piles of leaves and since we live under what seems like 300 pine and oak trees, there is definitely no shortage of that. I kind of wish the yard would rake itself...

I love that kid. He has the wildest imagination and its so fun to play along with his daily musings. 

--FAMILY PICTURES--

We ventured to the Abbey the weekend after Thanksgiving (love that we live so close to one of my favorite places!), to take family pictures and play around a bit. Even though Kolbe was just getting over an ear infection, he was a champ for the most part and we had some fun. Thanks to my awesome friend Kelly for tagging along and snapping some fun pictures of us! Thankfully we managed a couple of good ones for our Christmas card and we lucked out with great weather too.

--CHRISTMAS TREE SHOPPING--

Last year we found a local Christmas tree farm about 15 minutes away from our house -- seriously, I love where we live =) -- and we just had to go again this year. I don't think we will ever get our tree again from a warehouse store considering how close we are to not one, but two amazing tree fams. Its just so fun to go out, pick, and cut down our own and Kolbe loved "hiding" in all the trees and helping Matt measure out the perfect one. The fact that we are supporting a local business is also an added perk! (And so is cutting down your Christmas tree in short sleeves haha)

We've been having a blast as a family of four. Even though I've definitely given myself time to rest, its also been fun to partake in all of the fall and winter fun that this season brings. Annabelle thankfully doesn't seem to mind either =) 

Annabelle's Birth Story

This week I would have been 38 weeks pregnant, but instead I present to you sweet Annabelle Lucy!

I am still a little bit shocked that she is here already and decided to come at only 37 weeks + 1 day, especially since Kolbe came at 40 weeks + 4 days.  But boy am I glad she came now and not at 40+ weeks or else she would have been one chunker of a newborn =)

Annabelle then 37 weeks in utero and now one week old. 

So without further ado, here is how Sweet Anna came into the world...

Monday morning, my usual bootcamp class morning, I packed Kolbe up to go to my last class for a while. I had decided that I would stop going at 37 weeks since I was having to modify so much in the class anyway. I took Kolbe to the gym with me, he played, I went to boot camp, and all was great. I even talked to the instructor at the end and told her that it was my last class and how thankful I was for having her push me throughout the course of my pregnancy. I went to class that morning with very very mild cramps that didn't feel like anything out of the ordinary and they weren't bothering me at all at that point.

Kolbe and I spent the rest of our morning doing our usual thing around the house, and at 12:06pm I sent Matt a text that said "I've started to waddle," thinking that that would be my life for the next three weeks.

Around 12:15pm, I asked Kolbe if he wanted to bake chocolate chip banana muffins with me to pass the time until I had to put him down for nap at 1. I have a history of going into labor while baking chocolate brownies so apparently, baking something chocolate is my body's natural labor inducing tactic =)

While we were baking, I noticed the mild cramps start to get a bit stronger, but they were still mild enough that I didn't have to stop what I was doing and I figured they would taper down and go away eventually since they were so short and I was still only 37 weeks. By the time I was putting Kolbe down for nap, I noticed that the cramps were definitely coming in a rhythmic pattern, every 15 or so minutes.

By 12:54pm, I sent Matt a text saying, "Ok, I'm legit having mild contractions...I don't know if it's real or not"

I decided to go take a shower and fix my hair in case this was going to be the day, at least my hair would be clean and manageable haha. Then I laid on the sofa to see if the contractions stayed or went away. I didn't want to make Matt drive all the way home for no reason so I wanted to make sure that this was the real thing. By the time Kolbe was out of his crib and eating a snack, I was having to focus a little bit on the contractions, but they were still short (about 20-25 seconds long) and at least 12 minutes apart. I told Matt he should come home just in case.

The time was 2:20pm.

I began to track my contractions with my contraction timer app at around 5pm and at that point they were jumping all over the place from 2 minutes apart to 6 minutes back to 2, up to 5 and so on. I still wasn't sure if this was real labor or if it would taper off since the contractions were still so short. I should've learned my lesson with Kolbe's labor because this is exactly how it went but somehow I was still in denial that this was going to progress any further, mainly because my water hadn't broken and I had no other physical signs of impending labor other than the contractions.

Matt and Kolbe played outside for the rest of the afternoon while I alternated between making all of us grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and laying on the sofa. By 7pm, I was starting to convince myself that this was real labor, and I prayed for it to pick up speed so that it wouldn't be like this all night long. We told sweet Kolbe goodnight and I snapped my last picture with him as an only child.

Between 6:30 and 8pm, the contractions slowed down to every 12-15 minutes again but they began to get longer. I laid down on the sofa to watch a movie with Matt and even though I was now having to brace myself against the arm of the sofa on all fours during contractions, I was fine in between and thankful for the much needed breaks. At this point the contractions were painful, but not out of this world painful. Matt got the exercise ball and I started using that as my support to lean when a contraction hit. Around this time, we started alerting everyone that we were indeed in labor and Matt started to pack up the car and do all of the last minute things on my "Once labor starts" to do list (oh you better believe I had a list! haha)

Like my labor with Kolbe, I had a few special intentions that people asked me to pray for and devoting each contraction to a specific intention was so helpful in getting me through the pain, knowing that it was being experienced for someone else. This is definitely something I always want to do during my future labors as it is the single best thing that takes my mind off of the pain. Its a privilege to experience the redemptive suffering for others. 

At 8:09pm my contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart and I told my mom that she should be on alert because there was a chance she would have to come and stay with Kolbe that night. For some reason, I wasn't in such a hurry to go to the hospital before this point. Its like my body knew its rhythm and that it wasn't time yet, even though my contractions were coming about 3 minutes apart. By 8:48pm I sent her a text that said "COME NOW." Looking back, its crazy to see how quickly the contractions escalated. At that point they were lasting longer, and were getting much more intense.  Right then, I knew that we had to go quickly so we jumped in the car and I called my doctor to let him know that contractions were intense and that we were on our way. 

We got to the ER (it was after hours) at 9:10pm and seeing how progressed my labor was, they checked me in right away and brought me up to the delivery room. I was assigned a really great nurse who had delivered all three of her babies naturally without pain meds and I knew that God was smiling down on me. She knew just the right moments to ask me questions and when to leave me alone and she even decided not to give me an IV after the first try didn't work because by that point, it was kind of pointless anyway. She checked me to see how dilated I was and to my relief I was 8cm. I was actually kind of surprised to already be that dilated because honestly, the contractions were still tolerable up to that point. Painful, yes, but like I said earlier, nothing out of this world crazy. I went to the bathroom before getting on the bed and saw some blood (sorry for the TMI!) and it finally clicked in my head that I was going to have the baby very soon. My doctor poked his head in, gave me a little pep talk, and told me he was there for me when I was ready to push the baby out. It was SUCH a relief that he had made it (my old doctor didn't make it to Kolbe's birth), and it gave me the boost of confidence to have him there and know that I could benefit from his calming and humorous personality.

Like Kolbe's labor, everything suddenly started to progress at lightning speed. The only position that felt manageable at this point was draped over the back of the bed and rocking back and forth. My most painful contractions came at this point and I remember feelings of doubt starting to creep in. I can only imagine that this was my body in transition and getting ready for the pushing stage because all I remember is leaning over to Matt and begging Jesus to help me. It was at this point that Matt began to pray over me while I sank into the depths of the contractions. I couldn't even hear what he was saying but I could feel the Holy Spirit wash over me and help me to release the tension I was holding on to. I had three more very intense contractions and with each one the urge to push became stronger. I turned around, Matt sat behind me to help support me, and I finally let go and allowed my body do its thing. 

The difference between the pushing stage with Kolbe's birth and this one is that Kolbe came flying out kind of uncontrollably and I couldn't even tell when I was having a contraction in order to push. For Annabelle, the contractions were much more controlled and I actually had a break in between pushes to catch my breath and just bask in the silence that had taken over the room. All of the nurses and Dr. Newman just stood back quietly and allowed nature to take its course. I can't even describe in words the peace that I felt despite the pain I was in.

Dr. Newman's presence was never overwhelming and it meant so very much to me that he respected my body's ability to do what it was created for. In fact, he stood about three feet away the whole time while I pushed, and watched silently as another life prepared to come into the world. It took three pushes and the famous and not so fun "ring of fire," and suddenly Annabelle came out, with the doctor's hand gently guiding her onto the bed.

My water never broke. In fact, she was still partially in her water sac and I watched the doctor peel it off of her soon after she came out. It was such a cool thing to witness. I was in awe as he lifted our little girl onto my chest, so relieved that it was over, and so in shock that she was actually born. It was 10:05pm on the night of November 3rd. 

People will say that the most important part of a labor and birth is a healthy baby, and while I definitely believe that to be true, I also believe in the importance of the mom having a beautiful, meaningful, and profound experience no matter what method she chooses to deliver the baby. I will forever be grateful to Matt, who just knows me so well and says and does just what I need during the hardest moments of labor and delivery. My amazing doctor also, for making this experience so meaningful, peaceful and profound for me. He was there not just for the baby, but because he sincerely wanted me to have the best birth experience I could possibly have. He cared about my happiness and well being, he respected my wishes, was my advocate throughout the whole process and trusted that my body knew what it was doing. I know those things because he told me so throughout the course of my pregnancy and his actions reflected it even in the delivery room when he told the nurses that I would be receiving the most minimal amount of interventions possible. Honestly, I almost cried tears of joy in between contractions when I heard him say that.

I couldn't write this birth story in one sitting mainly because I got emotional each time I sat down and started to process it. Everything lined up so perfectly and I could just feel God's providence covering us the whole time. It also helped that I had a relic of St. Gerard (the patron saint of expectant mothers) tucked into my hospital bag =) It was such a beautiful way to bring our precious girl into the world and I'm so grateful to have had such a positive and heartfelt labor and delivery. 

Until next time dear friends. I hope I didn't just bore you out of your mind, but then again if you made it this far, I guess not =)


+JMJ+


Baby AL update {37 Weeks}

Home stretch my friends!

I am officially full term today and its crazy to think that at any point in the next 3-4 weeks, she could be here. I must say that I think I would rather skip the whole labor/delivery party and just hold that sweet girl, but thankfully, I think it will be a fast one since Kolbe's labor and delivery were so fast! 

How I'm Feeling: This has been a really good week! I've had a lot of energy and I haven't been feeling achy these past few days, although that could change in the blink of an eye. It has been nice to have this little end of the line burst of energy. The only thing is that it takes me like 5 minutes to get up off the floor when I'm playing with Kolbe haha. The most challenging thing right now is getting comfortable when laying down to go to sleep and I can't wait to be able to sleep on my back again! 

I'll be living in workout pants with big comfy sweaters and dresses/skirts for the rest of this pregnancy because regular maternity pants are so uncomfortable now since she's so low.  Thank God for the inventor of yoga pants. Also, a lot of my maternity clothes don't fit anymore. I didn't even know that could happen and it definitely didn't happen with Kolbe! You can tell how stretched out my shirt is in that picture above haha. 

Exercise: I've definitely slowed it down on the exercise to 2-3 times a week at this point, but really more like two with one of those being my boot camp class and another being a long walk or a sloooow elliptical session + light weights. I really want to try and go on a good walk every day leading up to AL's birth, hopefully I can make that happen!

AL's Room: I kind of met my goal of having it done at 35 weeks except for hanging things on the walls because I don't have everything that I need in my possession. Everything else is pretty much done though and everything is all set and ready for her. 

Tidbits about AL: According to Baby Center, she is the size of a head of Swiss Chard this week and weighs about 6 1/2 pounds give or take. Her brain and lungs still have a bit of developing to do so the longer she stays in the better. 

Overall, things are great right now and we are just coasting along and getting excited about meeting our sweet girl. I'm making sure to take advantage of all the sleep I can get now since I know opportunities will be fleeing in the near future too. 

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In other news, we have 5 new chickens!! They arrived today and I'll be sure to do a proper introduction very soon.

Have a great Monday!

 

+JMJ+

All You Need is Love

Today marks ten years that my then boyfriend, and now husband, said the words "I Love You" to me for the first time.

We have always been sappy about celebrating little (or big) anniversaries within our relationship and this one is no different. We call it "Love Day" Because without it, perhaps neither of us would have learned what it truly means to love faithfully, fruitfully, unconditionally, and without reservation. 

Now, don't get me wrong. At the tender young age of 17, we certainly didn't view those three words in the same way we do today. But, thanks be to God, it was the starting point for us in our journey of sacrificial love for the Lord in our relationship and for one another. Ten years later, I sometimes chuckle at our young selves and how naive we seemed, yet, by God's grace, we were bound that day for the rest of our lives and I think we both knew it deep within...

***

It was a humid and sticky Friday evening in late October. Matt had asked me if I wanted to go on a mini date with him and, of course, I obliged. I say mini date because we were both scheduled to take the ACT test the next morning and had to be home by 9:30pm (how fun right?). I arrived at Matt's house to see that there was a table set up for dinner for two in his dining room, and after letting me believe for a seconds that it was for us, he informed me it was for his parents. We ventured out for a walk to the nearby park instead. It was nearing sunset and although it was rather hot outside, it was nice to be outside and spend some much needed time together amidst our busy high school schedules.

As we made our way around the trail inside the park, I noticed our friend Jason's SUV in one of the parking lots and excitedly told Matt that I thought Jason was there and we should go say hi. Matt, however, took this as his cue for pulling out a blindfold and making me wear it for the duration of our adventure. Not realizing until that moment that this was indeed going to be an adventure, I began to get excited about any upcoming events. After all, Matt was (and is) known to wittingly pull things off that I could never pull off in a million years so I knew then, that he had something up his sleeve. 

As we continued walking with me still blindfolded, I felt us starting to go uphill and stop at the top. At this point it was twilight (my favorite time of day! probably because of these events) and Matt asked if I was ready. At that moment, I was seriously thinking that someone was going to come dump a bucket of water on my head or something ridiculous, but I said yes and he proceeded to take the blindfold from my eyes. Immediately I noticed the light of the moon shining on the grass at the bottom of the field, and then I saw them. In the valley below the hill, were twinkling tea candles that spelled out the words "I love you" and my heart just soared. I was taken aback and speechless so I didn't really respond until probably 15 minutes later (poor Matt!) but it was quite the special moment for us. We spent the rest of the evening on the hill talking, laughing, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. On that day, our relationship was elevated to a whole new level and the doors were opened for us to begin learning what sacrificial love was all about. 

Its been quite the journey and I still feel like it has just begun! Matt and I's relationship, and now marriage, has stretched me in ways I didn't know I could stretch and thanks to his excellent example of selflessness and gentleness, I have learned what it means to choose to love the other, to choose to love his soul and not just the things on the surface. Its not just about the fuzzy and warm feelings inside - although those are nice - but rather, about making the conscious decision to love one another daily, for the rest of our lives, regardless of what twists and turns life may take. In fact, real love is found in the depths of the most challenging moments: in the tough conversations, in the fog of sleep deprivation due to a newborn, in the days where one of us is so sick that the other must pick up all of the slack. When we choose to put the other's needs ahead of our own regardless of how much it hurts, that is where the heart is stretched to capacity and God gives the grace to enable love to multiply.

What a wonderful gift that Matt gave to me on that evening of October 22. It is most definitely a moment I will never forget =)

I was especially elated when I found out that October 22 would be designated as the feast of Saint John Paul II, whose writings on Theology of the Body were the foundation that God used to build Matt and I's relationship so early on. Saint John Paul the Great, Pray for us!!

"It's not enough to Love, people have to feel that they are loved." -Saint John Bosco

 

 

+JMJ+

Shout out to Elise and Molly of BlairBennet's photography who made our wedding come to life in such a special way =)