Ourselves on Blast

My students have a saying for when you tell someone’s business to a group of people- you’ve “put them on blast.”

I’ve wondered recently if people read our blog and get uncomfortable with what we write about. We created la vita vera because we wanted to encourage others to pursue authenticity alongside us. Jon and I have both grown the most from the moments we have been vulnerable, especially with one another. In a world where relationships often seem to be sustained through social media, it can be quite attractive to hide behind our best moments in life, trying to create our ideal image but never really giving people the full picture.

What would happen if we posted our true thoughts, tweeted our empty desires, and captured our ugly moments? If we “#nofilter”-ed the messiness of real life. Maybe then we would all feel a bit more connected and a lot less lonely. I have experienced this recently in my confessions about body image and struggles with being a new mom.

If we were all a lot more transparent about what goes on behind closes doors, sharing the groans of our burdened hearts and confessing the darkness we see within, then maybe we could let go of pride and extend the grace we are freely given to others – some of those in very similar situations. We would also probably realize that we are all a lot more alike than we may believe.

I find myself growing slowly more comfortable with putting myself “on blast” in my aim to encourage others to pursue authenticity.



I wrote this last year about this time. School began shortly after, and I never posted it. Reading it now is a good reminder and challenge as I am in the midst of posting fun pictures of our travel and cute shots of Jack. These things are good and totally acceptable to post, but I want to strike a healthy balance of presenting our celebrations and our lessons.



Photo: Tommy Cafe (One of many photos I took of the lovely cafes in Montreal.)


Today is not my first day of School.

Today is the first day of school for DCPS students and teachers. But I do not have students this year. I will not eat lunch with coworkers, decorate a classroom, or grade papers at my own desk. I am no longer, at least for this season, a teacher.

In May, after years of prayer (even before I was pregnant), we decided that I would resign from teaching to stay at home with our 1 year old Jack. When the decision had been made, I felt so much relief. There were other excellent opportunities, but this seemed like the most appealing decision. I wanted to be the the one with Jack all day. I wanted to teach him his colors and animal sounds. I especially wanted to be the one to take care of him when he was sick.

However, this was a very difficult decision to reach. One evening while reading about another teacher-mama’s decision to leave, I realized why saying “see you later” to teaching was so challenging. In addition to giving up my own space and a reason to look presentable, I would be giving up a few things I truly cherished about teaching.

1. Watching 8th graders get super into reading A Raisin in the Sun, a group of kids that many people had cast off as not being capable and most likely to fail.

2. Laughing with my students. In all honesty, this did not happen that often. But the times it did were so sweet. I felt like the mom that wants to tell the joke again just so she can relive the moment…because middle schoolers are just really hard to impress.

3. Making an off-the-cuff bulleted Friday agenda and ending with some kind of “educational” game that brings out my inner kid and makes my classroom feel like an extension of home on game night.

4. Being challenged in the way I think, look, and relate to people that are different from me.

5. Seeing my students writing improve. Moving from barely writing a few sentences to supporting their responses with textual evidence.

My students caused me a lot of frustration and tears. But they taught me more about being patient and gracious. They showed me the importance of commitment and responsiveness. Those 5 years of teaching were sanctifying. Life-changing. And I will never forget them.

This morning, while I fed Jack yogurt and blueberries – the same thing he eats every morning, the way my morning will probably start for the next 5-8 years – I reached out to past students, congratulating them on making it to the next grade and reminding them that they make me proud. It was encouraging to hear back. For a few different reasons, it’s not as easy for us to keep up, but I will try.

Today is bittersweet, for sure. But this new season will be just as sanctifying. It has already proven to be as much. I am very thankful and excited to pour into my own little being. Reading, laughing, and playing with him. Journeying alongside him as he explores this big world and learns to love the people in it.



Jack Communicates

I think it is awesome that God has given Jack ways to communicate even though he does not have words. It is the same awe I had when I worked at Easter Seals Camp Harmon some 9 years ago. It was there that I met a dear friend of mine,Tanja, who had severe Cerebral Palsy. Tanja did not communicate with spoken word, but she had a number of other ways that she could tell me her preferences and desires. She used her head wand to point to letters in the alphabet to spell out words. She used her eyes to point to things. She used facial expressions such as eye rolls and smiles as well as groans and small movements to nudge toward things. By the end of the week, I knew how Tanja liked to be positioned, when she was excited, and even what she found annoying. And she never spoke a word to me.

Since being a Mama, I feel like I have to find other ways to communicate with Jack so that I can figure out his preferences and desires as well. At times, this can be exhausting and defeating. Until Jack was 2 months, he cried every evening for hours. Nights were also often filled with tears. However, as time has progressed, we have learned how Jack communicates when he is not feeling well or still hungry. Understanding that crying is one way of communicating to us helps in those desperate moments.

I praise God that he gave my little guy ways to communicate such as his precious facial expressions, distinct cough cry, and not so discrete wiggles that tell me what he needs or doesn’t need each moment. How our Lord provides for us at all ages of our life.


Tiny Things: Practical Baby Buys

After 13 months, I wanted to compile a short list of the baby items that have really made #momlife easier. I talked with Jon about these, and he confirmed and added a few of his own.

  1. Wipeable changing pad cover. I registered for a few cute cotton covers, but after 3 days I wanted something more practical. I was up for any way I could downsize the amount of dirty laundry I was accumulating. This cover can be easily cleaned with a wipe or washcloth.
  2. Baby Oxiclean. A friend of mine opened my eyes to this amazing little tub. I could now save the cutest, tiny onsie that looked an unrecognizable mustard yellow. ** If you are hesitant about using these chemicals in your wash, check out this  homemade stain remover. It’s amazing and works even after you have panicked washed 3 times.
  3. Jon and I decided that we wanted to make our own baby food, and I am in love with anything glass. I have liked everything about these precious little jars. Easy to clean, compact, and great price!
  4. These Aden & Anais swaddle blankets ended up being perfect for anything. I used them for a quick nursing cover, tied them to his carseat to block the sun (they actually make one for that now), makeshift picnic blanket, etc…
  5. Honest Hand sanitizer (Sweet Orange)– These tiny spray bottles were easy to pack, smelled so comforting, and seemed safer than other sanitizer’s on the market.
  6. I am not sure what we would have done without a NoseFrida. Despite many comments of disgust from our family. This little snot contraption was with us through many rough nights.
  7. This OXO Tot Bib has been very helpful since Jack started eating solids. It catches everything for the second round, and I really like the cloth material around his neck. It makes it stand out from other bibs like it.

What are your most practical baby purchases?



Raising a Reader


From the day we brought Jack home from the hospital, I have been reading to him. I hope that he loves reading and is better at it than his mama. I thought I’d make a list of my favorites, Jack’s favorites, and some I hope to read soon! In an effort to entertain Jack at restaurants, on planes, or in the car (though, we confess…”5 Little Ducks” is a go-to sometimes), we are slowly building up a great library of books for Jack. If you’re starting a <a href="http://Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry“>Baby Registry, adding to your own collection, or gift shopping for a nephew or niece, books are great gifts to give and receive!

My Favs

Beautiful Oops (we actually both love this one)

If I could Keep you Little

Goodnight, Animals– Teaching Jack how to point and count! The technology is genius!

Pantone: Colors

Jack’s favs

Bright Baby Animals

Bright Baby Colors



Jane Eyre: A BabyLit Counting Primer

Peekaboo, Baby!

Our Reading List


The Wonderful Things you will Be



TouchThinkLearn: ABC

At the Same Moment Around the World

City Block

An Animal Alphabet


What is your little one reading?


The Story of Jack

I watched from the side lines. We were dating, and Jon was playing point guard, I believe, for the Carolina (Tar Heels). He ran down the court, scored a layup, and everyone went crazy. The team went up to my grandma’s Sitting Room for a celebratory get together with Coach Roy. I walked up the many stairs to this secret room, celebrated for a brief moment, then looked to see a giant blue elephant above me.

It had only been a dream, but the weird back pain that woke me up at 3am was REAL life. Something felt a little different than the past 9 months of aches and pains. Baby was already 6 days late, so this could very well be the beginning of his arrival. I tried to go back to sleep, but I continued waking up to a weird tightness in addition to being extremely hot. I decided to take a shower and find a comfy spot on the couch down stairs.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, I texted my doula to give her a heads up. She said it wouldn’t hurt to start tracking contractions, so I used a tracking app she recommended. Jon and I had breakfast and quiet time, while I bounced on my birthing (yoga) ball. I was very distracted during quiet time, just wondering if this really was the beginning of Jack’s arrival. Around 10am, we had some friends come to visit that were in town for the weekend. The contractions weren’t too painful at this point. I would hold my breath during the tightness, then smile with the release, feeling some sense of pride that my body was making progress toward Jack’s arrival. After our visit, we texted our doula again. She recommended at this point to put on the Tens Unit for pain management. JennDoula said it worked better if you started using it before labor got intense. Jon helped me put it on. The shock was weird at first, but I was quite thankful for this interesting piece of equipment come 9pm. We went for a walk near Lincoln Park to spurr labor on. I would squeeze Jon’s hand through each contraction. We saw some church friends out walking as well. When we got home, I decided going to church might be risky. It also didn’t sound very comfortable. Jon made us some kind of chicken soup, and we tried to watch a movie about Winston Churchill.

The contractions continued getting more intense. By 9’o clock Jenn told us to head to the hospital, and she would meet us there. On the way to the hospital, I started texting everyone I could think of to let them know. I had a list of people. I knew I would need a squad of people praying and encouraging me. When we got to the hospital, we missed the labor entrance by a few minutes, so we had to walk around the building to a different entrance with all our labor tools in hand (haha, we didn’t use any of it!). We got in and went to triage. The nurse couldn’t believe I was going to try without an epidural. She did not believe I could do it. I could sense this and was slightly frustrated. By the end of the night, though, I was holding the same nurse’s hand hopeful that she would see me through to the birth of Jack.

As I went through the triage process, I could feel my patience slowly fading away. I was a little more stern with my words, so Jon took over with the communication. He was so good at being my advocate and trying to get everyone to stick to my birth plan. Once they hooked me up to the monitor and did the first check I was 6 centimeters and 80% effaced. Nurse Tuma said that I would have this baby by morning. I wasn’t in there long before they admitted me.

I had found out mid-pregnancy that there was a good chance I would not have the same OB I had been seeing for all of my check-ups during my actual labor, since the practice is so big. I was bummed, but I had been holding out hope that at least I might get a female OB for my delivery. Once they completed triage and placed me in a delivery room, I found out the OB on the floor was a male I had not met before. But, he ended up being the perfect doctor for us. I was very thankful for him. He honored my birth plan and never pushed his opinion of my care.

Jenn came at 11:18pm. I know the exact time because my amazing doula took minute by minute notes. I was in some tough pain by this point and taking a shower sounded so perfect. With some help from Jon, we were able to labor in the shower for a bit. During the week leading up to Jack’s due date, I made a whole contraction schedule. Everything from songs I would listen to, positions I would transition to, family I would FaceTime for encouragement. And when the time came, I never even got that list out of the bag. Laying on my back was not comfortable when I was pregnant, but it was all I wanted to do during labor. But, my doula was pretty persistent about getting me to move positions frequently throughout the night.

Close to midnight, she had me standing beside my bed swaying through each contraction. It was during this time that my water broke, and almost immediately, I felt very nauseous. Honestly, this part was awful. I feared throwing up, so I didn’t want to drink anything else. (BIG MISTAKE.) I also didn’t want to have an IV initially, so I wasn’t really getting any fluids besides a few ice chips here and there, which meant I wasn’t very hydrated. By 12:20, Nurse Tuma started the penicillin drip. I had to have it because they found I had Strep B early in pregnancy. Thankfully, Jenn was paying super close attention and noticed that the drip never started going through the IV. She brought it to the nurse’s attention, and the issue was resolved. One of many reasons why Jon and I are thankful we had a doula.

To help with pain, Jenn taught Jon how to do counter pressure on my back. He really was the ultimate ManDoula. That’s what Jenn called him. She said he was doing everything he was supposed to do. By 1:38, I was 7-8cm dilated and 80% effaced. Nurse Tuma took me off the penicillin, fluids, and monitors. Jenn had me get up and sway some more before laying back down to be on the monitors again. This routine continued for a good portion of the night. Around 3:20, my fear became reality: I threw up. What’s worse than throwing up? Not much, other than throwing up while in labor. Jenn had me get on my knees in bed and hang over the front. Another nurse came in around this time to tell us that Jon’s parents had arrived, anxiously sitting in the waiting room for their grandson to arrive.

By about 4am, the long labor was catching up with me and I was feeling extremely tired. More tired than I have ever felt in my life, I think. In between contractions, I would literally fall asleep. Jon was watching the monitor and could always tell when I was about to wake up for another contraction. Around 5am, they started a second round of penicillin. At 5:17, apparently I said, “”I feel a LOT of pressure! A LOT of pressure!” I wanted to push, but mostly I just wanted to be done laboring. I wanted my body to rest while I held Jackson on my chest. I had been thinking of that moment for months. Alas, it wasn’t quite time…

No one wanted Jackson’s birthday to be June 6. June 6 was the scheduled date of my dad’s HIPEC surgery. His only treatment to kill the awful appendix cancer that had been discovered in February of the same year. Jack being a week late and arriving on June 6 meant that my family was not able to come for the birth and couldn’t meet Jackson for weeks. My mom wouldn’t be able to spend time with me during those early days of recovery. In between this most recent round intense contractions, I was actually able to FaceTime with my dad. He was getting prepped for surgery. I was getting ready to push. Seeing my dad and talking with him was exactly what I needed to keep going. At 5:50, the OB resident came in and checked me: 9 cm dilated, 0 station, and 100% effaced. I couldn’t believe I had only gone up 1 cm. I was worn out. More laboring. More contractions.

At 6:39, doctor came in again, and the check was complete. Finally, 10 cm. I moved to my back, the doctors came in, and we started pushing with my abdomen. At first, Jon was standing beside the head of my bed. He was in charge of counting, but he was going way too fast. Jenn stepped in and reassigned him; she took on the counting, and I was thankful for that. There is an art to counting, and it literally means everything when you’re pushing. Jon was now holding a leg and Jenn was up by my head leading the count. They counted loud and kept yelling for me to push. It was a lot. I was not a two or three push girl. It took a good hour. Jack’s head would come close for what seemed like a few dozen pushes, but never enough. However, I was thankful I could feel myself pushing, having not had numbing meds, because I didn’t have bad tearing. Thankfully, through it all, my strong Jack didn’t get stressed. At 7:19, Nurse Tuma who had been through the whole night with me had to leave. I was so bummed. I wanted her to help me meet Jack. However, Nurse Rachel took her place. I must have told her about my dad or someone else did, because she told me that she was a cancer survivor. I instantly felt more at peace.

After a few more pushes, at 7:36am, our beautiful baby boy came into the world. (I am holding back tears right now.) I will never forget the feeling of this tiny being coming out of me. It was the hardest, most traumatic, most beautiful thing I have ever been a part of. My brave husband cut the cord. He was so proud of me, he told me that, and that he loved me so much. Those words were so sweet that morning, and I often think back to them. Two minutes later, my placenta was delivered. In all of this, I ended up losing more blood than usual, so they started some Pitocin and gave me Cytotec. They put a catheter in to empty my bladder (which I had no idea until I just read that in the notes).

By 8:06, I was FaceTiming my mom and introducing Jackson Paul to his GiGi (my mom), Aunt Cassie (my sister), and Oma (my grandmother). It was about then that I started not feeling well, almost like the world seemed to be fading a little. Jenn held Jack and a whole team of nurses rushed in. My blood pressure was crashing; it had dropped to 57/34. This was probably the scariest moment of all for me. I didn’t research anything about hemorrhages or complications after birth. And I kept telling everyone I didn’t want to die. I must have said it 15 times. Those poor nurses, I just kept talking. I told them about my dad’s cancer, that my sister was going to be a nurse, and who knows what else. But thanks to the nurses quick action, and after juice, fluids, and some rest, my excited in-laws came in, and we all praised God for bringing our precious Jackson Paul into our lives that day – a day on which we all needed to be reminded that God, as Jackson’s name means, has been gracious.


What we’re Diggin’

I love when the blogs I follow write a post about what products, books, and shows they are into this season. So, I thought I would post some things Jon and I are into these days.

  1. Like-to Know– You can follow styles on Instagram and then get sent information regarding each piece of clothing in the post. The prices for the items are never outrageous, and it really helps me figure out what key items I want to add to my wardrobe. (This is definitely a me thing, not Jon.)
  2. We are loving all things curry. Here is one of our favorites.
  3. TinyBeans– This fun app lets us post pictures and videos every day. It has been a helpful way to keep the Grands in the loop!
  4. Jon and I have done some major traveling stateside over the past three months: St. Paul, MN, Edisto Island, SC, Raleigh, NC, Georgia, Brekenridge, CO, Lynchburg, VA, U.S Virigin Isalnds, and San Antonio,TX. Skyscanner and Hopper have been really helpful apps to aid in our search for the cheapest fares. Hopper also predicts future ticket prices and allows you to set alerts for different trips.
  5. Wild China- This has been our go-to Netflix documentary after we put Jack down.
  6. Call the Midwife- This has grown to be one of my favorite shows during the afternoon. I am sure going to miss cuddling up and feeding Jack on rainy afternoons and watching Chummy and the gang. These stories have hit so close to home during this new season of Mamahood.
  7. National Parks Adventure– Since watching this Imax with Alex and Cassie in September, a strong sense of adventure has been kindled. We have also downloaded all the songs from the soundtrack which make for the perfect road trip playlist.
  8. Skillshare– I took a free course on how to take RAW images, and it was so helpful. They have courses on just about everything. I want to have a skillshare party soon!